Is being a perfect leader a good thing?

August 8th 2022 | Posted by Dave

The word perfection often elicits a positive reaction. It conjures up images of highly motivated and conscientious individuals who always strive to do their best. But is perfection in leadership really as positive as it sounds?

The most successful leaders know that perfectionism is not a good attribute. To begin with, leaders who attempt to attain impossible standards concentrate on themselves rather than the bigger picture. This is detrimental to the organisation. Striving to be ‘perfect’ also often has personal ramifications for leaders.

Striving for perfection can be bad for mental health

Setting goals is not a bad thing but when those goals are not achievable the results can be hugely stressful and damaging to mental health. This is what happens with perfectionism. Top leaders know that chasing details to achieve unrealistic personal goals is damaging.

It prevents individuals from appreciating the wider strategic picture and sets them up for failure. This in turn causes stress and can have a longer-term negative impact on the mental health of the individual and others who are affected by their actions.

In an organisation, one perfectionist leader can potentially cause issues throughout the entire workforce.

Perfectionists often micromanage

One attribute of a perfectionist leader that can adversely affect the mental health of those around them is the propensity to micromanage. They attempt to control the actions of everyone around them.

In contrast to this, effective leaders empower and trust people. They provide guidance and direction, and they enable people to achieve and take accountability for their actions while providing backing for the teams they lead.

It’s clear that an empowering leader rather than one who micromanages is more conducive to creating an innovative environment which helps individuals, and the organisation as a whole, to thrive.

Mistakes are an opportunity not a failure

A leader who is a perfectionist is often reluctant to admit their mistakes as they view them as failures and a sign of weakness. This is dangerous in two ways.

The first negative impact of not taking accountability for all actions, including mistakes, is that this attitude promotes a risk averse blame culture within the organisation. This in turn restricts the potential for beneficial change and growth.

The second negative impact of a leader’s failure to recognise their mistakes is that others have difficulty developing an understanding of the leader if they have limited awareness of their strengths and weaknesses. This makes it difficult for positive communication and collaboration to happen.

Successful leaders recognise that mistakes are an opportunity not a sign of weakness. Taking accountability for errors, and learning from them, helps a leader to grow. It also shows those around them that they are human and allows a deeper understanding to develop.

Understanding these negative impacts of perfectionism shows why it’s not a good attribute for a leader to have. Instead, impactful leaders have wider strategic vision, they support and encourage people in their organisation, and they turn their mistakes into an opportunity to improve.

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